After the Scrum class last I got a chance to attend a talk hosted by SolutionsIQ on Adopting Scrum in the Enterprise. Chris Kinsman gave a very interesting talk on his experience adopting Scrum in his organization, how executive sponsorship made a key difference, and how the adoption has proceeded. I was particularly taken with the idea of a Sustaining Engineering scrum team. In Chris’s organization, they run 4 scrum teams, and every sprint one of them does the sustaining engineering, fixing customer issues and releasing hotfixes, etc. Every sprint they rotate the duty, so the sustaining work is spread around and nobody has to bear the burden all the time. It also means that everyone gets a better understanding of how the code works and what customer’s are concerned with. Passing the buck on sustaining was a big issue at Corillian, and I know that I at least really didn’t like being on the hook carrying the support phone for a week at a time.
Since Agile often gets adopted from the “grassroots” with the development team advocating for it, it was interesting to hear about a successful top-down adoption. It poses some interesting challenges, but if done correctly the executive sponsorship could really make a big difference to making Scrum successful.
The biggest advantage I can see to a top-down adoption is that you can work on changing the whole organization at once with a better chance of success. Several groups I’ve worked with have adopted Scrum/Agile at the development team level, but the rest of the organization has lagged behind. That tends to mean that the rest of the process is basically waterfall, with a little Agile in the middle. You start with a requirements gather phase, do a little design, then some “agile” for the construction phase, followed by a formal QA process. That sort of adoption is better than nothing, but it poses it’s own set of challenges.